Mama Remembered: Cowboys and Panthers


Mama’s father was a very trusting soul.  And, he personified the “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” view of life.  I think of him as my “Scottish dreamer” grandpa, because he was Scottish and he wasn’t very practical. 

Someone he had just met could promise him land and a house to live in in some other state that would sound better than his current circumstance, and he would just pack his wife and children up and move, on the basis of  just a stranger’s word!  As you can imagine, most times the promise was much grander than the reality when they actually got there. 

But after his first marriage broke up and before he and my grandmother met, he had what was for me his most interesting job — he was a cowboy!

Here is a story from Mama’s book, I Remember that happened while he was a cowboy for a while at the beginning of the 20th century.  I remember the ledger she mentioned with songs and poems written in it in my grandfather’s beautiful handwriting.  Anyway, here is her story:

Dad was a cowboy in west Texas for a year or so in about 1904 or 1905.  He was paid $35 a month and got his room and board.

He said each of the cowboys had to take his turn “riding fence”.  That meant riding around the perimeter of the land checking to see that the fence was in good repair and, if it wasn’t, fixing it.  The ranch was so big, in order to ride all the way around the fence, a fellow had to camp out for two or three weeks.  He did his own cooking and, at night, put his rope on the ground around his bed to keep snakes away.  He said a snake won’t cross a rope.  There were lots of rattlesnakes in that country.

On his way back to the ranch headquarters from one of these trips, he came upon a cow and her newborn calf.  At about the same time, he spotted a panther slinking through some bushes.  He knew if he left the calf there, the panther would get it, so he put the calf across the saddle in front of him and headed for the ranch house.

There was a lone tree that his path went under.  But he said he had a feeling he shouldn’t go under the tree so he circled the tree and went back to the path further on.  Then he looked back and, sure enough, that panther was coming down out of the tree.  He said he spurred his horse on and they really took off for the ranch house.  He got there with the calf okay.

I was always fascinated with the stories Dad would tell us about when he was a cowboy.  Not only did he tell us about his experiences, but also stories other cowboys told while sitting around the bunk house at night, and about the cowboy songs they would sing.  He wrote alot of the songs down in a ledger which I still have.

I think my sister, Martha, still has the ledger.  The next time I’m there I’m going to ask about it.  I would love to take some pictures of the pages if they are still legible.

By the way, I think how Mama’s father handled his experience with the panther may have been influenced by an experience his father had had with a panther!  I’ll print that story from Mama’s book tomorrow.

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5 Responses to Mama Remembered: Cowboys and Panthers

  1. C. Beth says:

    Wow, I bet there aren’t that many ranches that large anymore. What a great profession for developing stories!

  2. Sandra says:

    Beth — I agree. Unfortunately, I was only 7 when he died, so I didn’t ever get to quiz him directly about being a cowboy. When I see him again in Heaven, that’s definitely one of the things I’d like to hear about! 🙂

  3. Hilary says:

    You sure do have some interesting stories from your Mama. I’m so glad she wrote her memoirs. She was a blogger before her time. 😉

  4. Sandra says:

    Hilary — I have thought many times since I started doing this, how MUCH my mother would have enjoyed telling her stories in this way. But, even though she was “born too soon” for blogging, at least I am happy that she wrote her stories down so that I can share them now. I feel the thrill of new readers for her!

  5. […] Ledger: An Introduction As I told you in this post about his encounter with a panther, my grandfather Duncan Browning was a cowboy for a year or so in […]

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